Comedy or humor, is not as such the essence of the concept bound by this English word, in modern usage. Rather, it describes a situation where something is represented as being one thing but is actually in conflict with the conceptual essence of that thing. It is thus in the same family of concepts with ironyoxymoron, etc.

The 'dressed so as to be ridiculous' in Webster 1913, is directly taken from the substansive entry in OED (there is also a verb entry):
c. 1662 Davenant Play House to Let t i What think you of Romances travesti ... Burlesque and Travesti? These are hard words and may be French, but not Law-French. c. 1664 Cotton Scaronnides: or Travestie, a Mock Pæn. Being the First Book of Virgils Æneis in English, Burlesque. ...
OED says that the term was made known in England as a result of Scarrons burlesque verses.

So for example the elections being held in Iraq tomorrow are considered by many a "travesty of democracy", likened to the holding of elections in Nazi occupied Europe by some more extreme polemicists¹

In this case you can see well illustrated the congealing of related concepts. It is ironic that the Iraqi people, who certainly like people everywhere long for freedom will have their "democratic elections" crammed down their throats at the barrel of a gun. It is also oxymoronic to portray the installation of a regime intended to secure American control of another country's resources and impose a social order on it at the cost of the lives of hundreds of thousands of its citizens as "freedom".

There is little of comedy and much tragedy in this particular instance. In this case the ultimate irony may well be either the break up of the nation state of Iraq, a product of British imperialism in the first place, or it's domination by a Shiite majority ultimately allied with the Iranian theocracy and hostile to Western interests. Further, apparently less than a quarter of the Iraqis overseas have participated in the elections and less than 10% of those that are in the U.S. There can be no claim that these individuals feel under any threat so it is more likely that they see the elections as a travesty.

One comic element I observed yesterday though was a prediction by an Iraqi partisan of the elections that the voter turnout might likely be greater than in the U.S.
¹ "The Iraqi election: a travesty of democracy". James Cogan. Go There

Trav"es*ty (?), a. [F. travesti, p. p. of travestir to disguise, to travesty, It. travestire, fr. L. trans across, over + vestire to dress, clothe. See Vest.]

Disguised by dress so as to be ridiculous; travestied; -- applied to a book or shorter composition.

[R.]

 

© Webster 1913.


Trav"es*ty, n.; pl. Travesties ().

A burlesque translation or imitation of a work.

The second edition is not a recast, but absolutely a travesty of the first. De Quincey.

 

© Webster 1913.


Trav"es*ty, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Travestied (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Travesting.]

To translate, imitate, or represent, so as to render ridiculous or ludicrous.

I see poor Lucan travestied, not appareled in his Roman toga, but under the cruel shears of an English tailor. Bentley.

 

© Webster 1913.

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